Local elections in Britain: “warning shot” for Johnson’s Conservatives

Status: 06/05/2022 1:51 p.m.

BEarly results show Prime Minister Johnson’s Conservatives suffering painful local election losses in Britain. The pressure on Johnson could now increase further – also in his own party.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative party suffer heavy losses in local elections. Early results show the Tories have lost control of the London boroughs of Barnet and Wandsworth, which had been firmly in their hands for decades. Daniel Thomas, Tory leader of Barnet Borough Council, said of the preliminary result: “It’s a wake-up call from Tory voters.”

But not only did the district of Wandsworth go to the opposition Social Democrats for the first time in four decades. Labor also won in the southern English port city of Southampton and in the newly created constituency of Cumberland in northwest England. Labor also claimed victory in the prestigious, long Tory-dominated neighborhood of Westminster in central London.

“Big turning point” for Labor

Outside London, Labor in England has had limited success based on past results. Labor leader Keir Starmer described his party’s strong performance in the London boroughs as a “huge turning point”. “We changed the Labor Party,” he said, speaking in a “message” to Johnson.

According to the first results, smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens were also able to gain ground.

Johnson takes responsibility

Meanwhile, Johnson took responsibility for his party’s preliminary results. “We had a tough night in some parts of the country, but on the other hand, we also made progress in places that haven’t voted Conservative in a long time, if ever,” Johnson told reporters during the interview. a visit to a school. in London.

The most important message from voters is that his party should take care of the things “that are most important to them”, the prime minister said. The Tories have been accused of failing to respond adequately to the burden of rising prices.

A total of thousands of local and district council seats in large parts of England as well as Wales and Scotland were voted on Thursday, and a new regional parliament was elected in Northern Ireland. In England, just over a third of the boroughs have already had their votes counted. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, vote counting was due to start in the morning.

Elections first mood test after “Partygate”

Regional and local elections in Britain are actually about concrete local politics, and turnout has traditionally been rather low. However, this year’s results could shine: they are seen as the first major mood test after the so-called Partygate scandals, in which Johnson was also embroiled. Parties at the Prime Minister’s official residence despite the current corona lockdowns had sparked discontent among many voters. Moreover, the drastic increase in the cost of living is also at the center of the political debate.

A weak Tory result would give a boost to critics of Prime Minister Johnson in their own ranks, who doubt his ability to win a majority in the general election, due to be held by the end of 2024. During the election campaign , the Tory candidates had distanced themselves from Johnson in many places and, in some cases, had pleaded on ballots not to blame them for government mistakes.

Regional election in Northern Ireland

The election for the regional parliament in Northern Ireland is particularly explosive. The results are not expected until Friday, but polls show Catholic-Republican Sinn Fein as the strongest force for the first time in the British province’s 100-year history.

Sinn Fein had previously promised a vote on the reunification of British Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. So far, one party has always emerged victorious, the one that has pledged to maintain the union with Great Britain.

Sinn Fein and DUP

The Catholic Republican Party common sense was once considered the political arm of the militant organization IRA (Irish Republican Army), which fought fiercely for a union of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.

the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) is a Protestant unionist party opposed to the union of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.

Should Sinn Fein indeed become the most powerful force, forming a regional government could become difficult. Then, the party would be entitled to the office of head of government (Prime Minister). The 1998 peace accord known as the Good Friday Agreement envisions a unity government made up of the largest parties from both sectarian camps. The formation of the government depends on the consent of the DUP and is therefore considered questionable.

The DUP has pledged to outright reject the special status of Northern Ireland agreed in the Brexit deal and to smash the previous unity government into the dispute over it in February. Experts expect the DUP to maintain its blockade.

Regional elections in England

Gabi Biesinger, ARD London, 6.5.2022 1:35 p.m.

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